[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CALIF., MISS., N.J., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Mar 8 01:02:22 CST 2005
Death sentence upheld for Oakland murderer----State Supreme Court rejects
appeal by man who killed two in 1987
The California Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the conviction and
death sentence of an Oakland double-murderer.
Cedric Harrison was convicted of the April 27, 1987, first-degree murders
of Betty Thompson, 34, and Leroy Robinson, 45, slain in an alley near A
Street. Prosecutors claimed Harrison shot the 2 because he'd given
Thompson $10 for some rock cocaine, but she gave him an actual pebble
An Alameda County Superior Court jury found him guilty in May 1992 but
deadlocked 10-2 on whether he should be executed or serve life in prison
without possibility of parole. A 1nd jury retried his penalty in 1993,
All death sentences are automatically appealed directly to the state
Supreme Court. In an opinion issued Thursday, the court rejected
Harrison's claims that he was denied a speedy trial, that a potential
juror was unfairly excluded because of her stated inability to vote in
favor of the death penalty, that the judge erred by admitting evidence of
another attempted murder and that the judge gave faulty jury instructions.
Associate Justices Carlos Moreno and Kathryn Werdegar concurred, but found
Deputy District Attorney William Tingle's biblical references in a closing
argument amounted to prosecutorial misconduct.
Tingle invoked the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from Revelation,
described Harrison as "the disciple of Satan" and urged jurors to "take
the sword from (defendant) and cast it down and tell him that he was wrong
and may go no further."
These were impermissible, the 2 justices concluded, but not worthy of
reversing the conviction or sentence.
Harrison - who has prior convictions for rape, oral copulation with a
minor, kidnapping, assault with intent to commit a felony and robbery -
still can pursue a habeas corpus petition.
The direct appeal decided Thursday exists only within parameters set at
trial, seeking reversible error, while the habeas petition is a
reinvestigation of the whole case.
(source: Inside Bay Area)
DEATH PENALTY OVERTURNED, PROSECUTOR ALLOWED FALSE TESTIMONY
A federal appeals court in San Francisco today overturned a death penalty
in a 25-year-old Stockton case because the prosecutor knowingly presented
false evidence in the defendant's trial.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling in the case of
Blufford Hayes, who was convicted and sentenced to death in San Joaquin
County Superior Court for fatally stabbing Stockton motel manager Vinod
Patel on Jan. 1, 1980.
After the murder, Hayes stole $23 and some cartons of cigarettes from the
The prosecutor in the case, then-Deputy District Attorney Terrence Van
Oss, made a deal to grant leniency to a key prosecution witness, Andrew
James, who drove Hayes away from the motel after the murder.
James was not told about the agreement to dismiss charges against him in
an unrelated case, although his lawyer was informed. The purpose of the
secrecy was so that James could say during the trial that there was no
deal in exchange for testimony.
But the appeals court said the prosecutor's action in knowingly allowing
false testimony from James and then failing to correct the record violated
constitutional due process principles articulated by the U.S. Supreme
Court in 1959.
In addition, the court noted, Van Oss deceived the trial judge by saying
during pretrial hearings that there had been "no negotiations" and "no
Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas wrote, "One of bedrock principles of our
democracy. . . is that the state may not use false evidence to obtain a
The 9th Circuit panel also said, "Our criminal justice system depends on
the integrity of the attorneys who present their cases to the jury. When
even a single conviction is obtained through perjurious or deceptive
means, the entire foundation of our system of justice is weakened."
The decision to overturn Hayes's conviction was made by a 7-4 vote of an
11-judge panel. The 4 dissenting judges agreed that the deliberate use of
false testimony was "repugnant," but said they did not think the withheld
information would have affected the jury's verdict.
Hayes took his appeal to the federal court system in a habeas corpus
petition after the California Supreme Court upheld his conviction and
sentence in 1990.
In 2002, a 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit upheld the conviction by a 2-1
vote. But last fall, the full 9th Circuit agreed to have the case
reconsidered by an expanded 11-judge panel, which issued its decision
(source: Bay City News)
U.S. Supreme Court denies death row inmate's appeal
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied to hear the appeal of a
Mississippi death row inmate convicted in the death of a Harrison County
Gerald James Holland was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to
death in 1987 in the slaying of 15-year-old Krystal King. Harrison County
authorities said King was raped, beaten and stabbed. The cause of death
was asphyxiation caused by choking, authorities said.
The Mississippi Supreme Court in 1991 upheld Holland's conviction but
threw out the death sentence.
Holland was re-sentenced to death in 1993 by a Harrison County jury. The
Mississippi high court upheld the 2nd death sentence in 1997.
On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Holland claimed ineffective counsel,
citing errors such as failure to present testimony from friends and
acquaintances "which would in any way humanize" him.
(source: Associated Press)
Trial issue: Is Morristown murder suspect retarded? --2 sides weigh
appeals in boy's death as judge looks for help
With no guidance from the Legislature, a Morris County judge yesterday
became the first in New Jersey to establish a procedure to determine if a
murder suspect is mentally retarded and automatically spared a death
The attorneys for accused child-killer Porfirio Jimenez and the
prosecution found fault with Superior Court Judge Salem Ahto's
multilayered plan with shifting burdens of proof, and both said they were
contemplating an appeal.
Ahto admitted he struggled to come up with a way to address the issue, and
appealed to lawmakers to intervene.
"I confess to being concerned about the views I have expressed herein," he
wrote. "I welcome the Legislature's involvement in making simple that
which I find difficult."
Jimenez, 40, of Morristown, is accused of luring 10-year-old Walter
Contreras Valenzuela from a Morristown playground to a secluded spot and
trying to have sex with him on May 20, 2001. Authorities say Jimenez, a
day laborer, beat the boy with a gardening tool to keep him from telling
anyone. The 3rd-grader's body was found 2 days later, and Jimenez was
arrested June 7, 2001, after a DNA sample linked him to the murder.
Defense attorney Joseph Krakora revealed in court that the prosecution's
psychologist found Jimenez' IQ to be below 70, just as the defense's
IQ, a measurement of intellectual functioning, is a factor used to
determine mental retardation, and generally, people who are mentally
retarded have IQs under 70. For a finding of mental retardation, the
person's mental deficit must affect everyday life and have existed before
An expert for the Morris County Prosecutor's Office initially determined
the Honduran immigrant's IQ to be 76, above the threshold for mental
retardation, but admitted in January that he miscalculated the score,
which was actually 69, according to a report filed after yesterday'
Despite the error, psychologist Frank Dattilio said in a Jan. 25 letter
that he stood by his finding that Jimenez is not retarded.
A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawed the execution of mentally
retarded defendants, but left the states to work out the details.
New Jersey is among 12 states with the death penalty but no law addressing
the issue of mental retardation, said Richard Dieter, executive director
of the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-capital punishment
organization in Washington D.C. 26 states have laws detailing the
procedure for making the determination.
Most states "decide this before the trial even starts," Dieter said,
although some, such as Virginia, address the question of mental
retardation after a guilty verdict but before a penalty phase to determine
whether execution is warranted, he said.
Ahto's proposal is a mix of the 2 approaches:
If the defense could demonstrate a preponderance of evidence to Ahto at a
pretrial hearing that Jimenez is likely mentally retarded and a jury then
convicted him of killing the Morristown boy, then the prosecution would
have the burden of proving to the jurors that Jimenez is not mentally
retarded. All 12 jurors would have to reject that Jimenez is mentally
retarded in order for the case to proceed to a penalty phase.
If the defense convinced Ahto that Jimenez was in fact retarded, then the
death penalty would be removed as a punishment option before the trial
If the judge determined Jimenez is not mentally retarded, then the defense
could raise it only as a mitigating factor at the penalty phase when
arguing against execution.
Assistant Morris County Prosecutor John McNamara Jr. said the prosecution
should not have the burden of proving Jimenez is not retarded "based on
what we think is the controlling authority and the correct interpretation
of the law."
McNamara also pointed out a possible loophole in the judge's plan that
could result in Jimenez getting far less time behind bars. If Ahto found
Jimenez to be mentally retarded and the trial no longer was a capital
murder case, Jimenez if convicted would only face 30 years to life in
prison rather than life without parole -- the sentence given when a jury
votes against the death penalty in a capital murder case.
On the other side, Krakora and co-counsel Dolores Mann said the judge's
procedure violates Jimenez' constitutional rights. Krakora noted that Ahto
could find that Jimenez is more likely than not mentally retarded, but a
jury could still sentence him to death.
When he read Ahto's decision, David Ruhnke, a nationally known capital
murder defense attorney, predicted "both sides are going to appeal,"
noting the judge appeared to have tried to give something to both sides.
Ruhnke said it was a tough call for the judge. "'This is an uncharted area
of the law," Ruhnke said.
Without a law, Dieter said, death penalty cases could be decided by
"Judges are forced to come up with these types of solutions," he said.
Last week's Supreme Court ruling that prohibits the death penalty for
criminals who were minors at the time of their offense puts death penalty
law in line with other statutes. It also puts the United States in line
with most other nations.
In a 5-4 ruling, the court said that no offender who committed his crime
before the age of 18 may be punished by death. Nineteen states have
allowed the use of the death penalty on those under 18.
Fortunately, Tennessee has not been among those states.
Children cannot be expected to have the same understanding of their
actions as is expected of adults. This truth is viewed in almost every
facet of society, from regulations on military service, on drinking, on
voting, on marriage. Criminal punishment should be no different.
The high court made its decision based on the protections in the Eighth
Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Imposing the
death penalty on a person who was failed by society as a child is indeed
The majority opinion noted the "overwhelming weight of international
opinion" opposes the death penalty for offenses committed by minors. It
also acknowledges that society's view of the death penalty has shifted
over the years due to the "evolving standards of decency that mark the
progress of a maturing society."
That shift of opinion is obvious in the court's own capital punishment
decisions. After permitting states in 1976 to impose the death penalty,
the Supreme Court said in 1988 that children 15 and younger could not be
put to death. It ruled three years ago that people with mental retardation
could not have the death penalty applied to them.
The court's decision throws out death sentences for 72 people sitting on
death row. They will now spend the rest of their lives behind bars. But
the ruling spoke louder about the broad responsibility society has toward
children who have not yet learned the fundamentals of civility and
(source: Editorial, The Tennessean)
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